Hocking Hills, Ohio

Photo: Bikingshaun Shaun Cupp (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Bikingshaun Shaun Cupp (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Another snow day? It’s not surprising given the record-breaking winter this has been. You’ve used your extra days off to sleep in, catch up on laundry, and watch mind-numbing daytime television. It was fun. The first day or two. But by your third or fourth snow day, you’re starting to get cabin fever. It’s time to head outside.

When the snowflakes stop falling, bundle up in layers and pull on your boots. Now is the perfect time to go hiking. Don’t worry, you’re not going far. The trails in Hocking Hills State Park may be short, but you’ll pass gorges, cliffs, rock formations, and, this time of year, frozen waterfalls.

The Buckeye State is known for being flat. Very flat. Southeastern Ohio, near the Kentucky and the West Virginia borders, is one area that doesn’t look like the rest of the state, though. It was covered by the Atlantic Ocean 330 million years ago. Today, it’s full of Black Hand Sandstone, hemlock trees, and beautiful views.

Follow the Grandma Gatewood Trail, which is part of Ohio’s 1,444-mile Buckeye Trail. The well-marked path begins near Upper Falls, a 15-foot waterfall that’s solid ice right now. From here, you have a perfect view through the deep, narrow gorge. Follow the snowy steps to Devil’s Bathtub. Usually water swirls through the tiered waterfall; right now, you could hear a pin drop. Pass by rock formations, over stone bridges, and around pine trees—their limbs drooping with heavy snow—to reach Old Man’s Cave, where a hermit used to live. A white-tailed deer watches you from the ridge. Crawl into the carved-out gorge, carefully avoiding the hanging icicles. Stop to catch your breath before continuing to Sphinx Head rock and eventually glistening Lower Falls.

Can you still feel your fingers? If so, continue along the hemlock-lined trail to Cedar Falls. Except for a few wild turkeys, no one else is on this quiet section of the trail. Through the trees, you start to see moss-covered cliffs, and when you reach the clearing, the remnants of an 1800s grist mill comes into view. Descending down the staircase, you pass Ohio’s tallest tree, which towers over the now-white valley. And then make your way toward Ash Cave, the largest recess cave in the state.

By now, it’s not just your fingers, but also your toes, that are starting to feel numb. Time to go warm up and drink hot chocolate. You might be cold and tired, but after the six-mile hike, you also feel reinvigorated. Bring on the next snow day.


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